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What Is Dyed or "Colored" Mulch?

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Picture of red colored mulch.

Picture of Angelina stonecrop in bloom against a backdrop of red colored mulch.

David Beaulieu
Question: What Is Dyed or "Colored" Mulch?
Even with a product as mundane as mulch, you now have a choice of colors, thanks to the phenomenon of dyed or "colored" mulch. Its detractors deride it as unnatural, while its proponents enjoy the extra vitality it brings to the landscape....
Answer:

There are mulches that blend in to a landscape and mulches that make a statement in their own right or help bring out the colors in your plants. If you want your mulch to blend in and be unobtrusive, two types of mulch made of bark will fit the bill:

  1. A mulch that has not been dyed ("colored")
  2. A mulch dyed brown

When a mulch has not been dyed, it loses its original color rather quickly. What starts out as a nice brown mulch will eventually weather to a grayish color, as the elements take their toll. Those who prefer the "natural" look in a mulch don't mind this color at all.

But for those who want a showy mulch, this weathering presents a problem. Enter colored mulch. Colored mulch is widely available in three colors:

  1. Red
  2. Black
  3. Brown

The brown colored mulch can be considered something of a compromise, since it's not as "in your face" as the red colored mulch or the black colored mulch. But since the brown color is dyed in, the elements won't rob you of it so quickly.

Opinions about colored mulch -- especially the red -- vary greatly (see below). Some despise its unnatural appearance and may even be disdainful of those who use it. Others allow for exceptions, as when, for example, a red colored mulch is used as a background for plants with yellow flowers (see picture above).

Of course, its appearance is quite a separate issue from the question, "Is colored mulch safe?" -- the subject of the next FAQ.

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